improv comedy with an audience member

CityPaper Review
"m@& - improv comedy" in the Philly Fringe Festival
September 16, 2010

M@& (pronounced "Matt and... ") is Rare Bird Show vet Matt Holmes' one-man improv comedy show. Each show involves Holmes picking one audience member to serve as his performance partner (the final performance of this Fringe run added an Upright Citizens Brigade-inspired wrinkle: An audience member's iPod provided the soundtrack).

Yes, it's a high-wire act (the analogy Holmes prefers in this instance is to a lion tamer), but Holmes, a skilled improviser, makes it work, even on a rainy night when his contrarian audience-plucked partner seemed hell-bent on crushing Holmes' grooves. (Holmes may have brought this on himself; on the Fringe Fest blog he does challenge people to try to trip him up.)

There's a trope in improv comedy that you never say no to an idea. But throw a non-improv performer into the mix and you can end up with a lot more quick re-thinking when questions and suggestions are met with a negative.

Yet Holmes is skilled and funny enough to make his second, third, and fourth ideas work when his first is jerked from beneath him. (Holmes was clever enough to channel the frustration he may have been feeling into the show, improvising a scene where a philosopher/idea man's train of thought is continually interrupted: "Can't you see I'm working here?" he implored.)

On this particular night, the audience left laughing, but also wondering where some of Holmes' first ideas may have ended up. He'll be reprising the show for October's Duofest and November's Philly Improv Festival.

- Brian Howard